A Devon Lady

James Leakey


With her hair upswept in an elaborate style with small curls framing her face, this lady is wearing a classical empire-line dress edged with lace and has a cornflower blue wrap over her arms. An attached label identifies her as the ‘sister-in-law of Cosby and Elizabeth Nesbitt of Dorset’.

Cosby Nesbitt of Lismore House, Cavan married Elizabeth Hancox in 1820. Elizabeth had an unmarried brother but no sisters so the lady must be related to the Nesbitt side of the family. It seems most likely therefore that she is Anne Davis who married Cosby’s brother Thomas. Thomas and Anne’s children were born in Bideford in Devon.

Dating to the period 1800-1810, the portrait was painted by James Leakey (1775-1865). It is set with a gilt metal slip and convex glass in an attractive faux burr walnut frame.

The son of an Exeter wool-stapler (a dealer in wool), Leakey painted oil portraits and landscapes as well as miniatures, working mostly in his home town but also for a time in London and Bath. He exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1821 and 1846. He was much in demand and is said to have abandoned a planned move to Canada because he had so many outstanding commissions. Upon retirement he became a Calvinist preacher; at least three of his eleven children also became church ministers.

Item Ref. 7167

Size: framed, 196 x 186mm